Diabetes is a chronic disease which can affect every part of daily life. Going to the doctor and taking medications are important, but not sufficient for optimal care.
Individuals with diabetes can reduce the short- and long-term impact of the disease by practicing self-management skills. This article will review how using health
technology makes it easier for to manage diabetes.
Basic diabetes self-management includes healthy eating, physical activity, weight control, monitoring blood glucose (sugar), and taking medications.
Hardware and software tools enable the patient to take greater control of their disease.
The first step to healthy eating for diabetes is to know what you what are eating. This means knowing the amount of carbohydrates, protein, fat, sodium, and calories in food. Only then can you compare your food intake to what is recommended for diabetes.
There are plenty of smartphone apps available for tracking food intake. At the most basic level, there are food diary apps which require you to manually enter the amount and types of foods you are eating.
Many apps can also scan nutrition labels and import the information into a food diary. This makes it much easier to keep track of calories, carbohydrates, and other key nutrients over the long term.
But what if you don’t know what’s in your food? A home-cooked dinner doesn’t come with a nutrition label. Now there are smartphone apps which can analyze the nutrient content of food from a photo image.
A hand-held laser device does the same, but with different technology. While the accuracy of these food analysis tools still needs to be improved, the potential for quickly evaluating the nutrient content of non-labeled food is exciting.
Benefits of physical activity for diabetes include controlling blood glucose levels, improving cardiovascular fitness, maintaining lean body mass, reducing body fat, and controlling weight.
Smartphone apps for tracking physical activity vary widely in sophistication. The simplest just allow you to enter your activity into a diary. Others use the phone’s GPS to track distance and speed as you walk, run, or cycle.
Pedometers measure steps, while accelerometers measure steps as well as other dimensions of physical activity. Many of these wearable devices send data to a smartphone app or website.
Apps for strength exercise are catching up to those for aerobic exercise. For example, Runtastic apps use the phone’s accelerometer to track repetitions for push-ups, pull-ups, squats, and sit-ups. The apps include schedules and reminders for gradually increasing repetitions.
Measuring Blood Glucose
Glucose meters (aka glucometers) are small devices for measuring the level of glucose in the blood. Several glucose meters connect by cable or wirelessly to diabetes management programs housed on a computer, smartphone, or the cloud. In some arrangements, health care providers can view the measurements and give feedback to patients.
Non-invasive monitors measure glucose without a skin prick, but these are under development.
Measuring Other Health Metrics
Maintaining a healthy weight and blood pressure is important for people with diabetes. Similar to glucose meters, scales and blood pressure monitors are available with options allowing users to track trends and share data with others, including health care providers.
Apps and calendar functions are useful for reminding you to take medications, exercise, and measure blood glucose.
Coping with diabetes can take a physical, mental, and emotional toll. Many patients would benefit from support from other patients in the same situation. Online communities and smartphone apps can open up avenues of support.
Tying it All Together
Look for platforms to emerge that connect with devices and apps to display data from multiple self-management activities in one interface.